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Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

This movie gets: 8.00 (1 rating) Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

"Did that just blow your mind? That just happened!" - a review by andy-j

This really isn't my kind of film at all. I saw the previews and thought it looked awful. It was sure to be yet another in a recent long line of lame comedies designed to appeal mainly to teenagers and young adults. My sense of humour has moved away from that sort of thing. Anyway, this is the sort of film that people will see based mainly on who the big comedy star is. In this case, we're talking Will Ferrell... I have to admit I wrote him off as crap without actually seeing anything he's done. So this judgement pretty much kept me away from this film, until one fateful evening when I was semi-forced to watch it. As it turns out, I spoke too soon.

So what's it all about? Ricky Bobby (Ferrell) and his best friend Cal Naughton Jr (John C. Reilly) are NASCAR drivers. Ricky initially works in the pits, but gets discovered when his driver, who is coming last, gives up and abandons his car mid-race to get some food. This gives Ricky the chance to hop into the driver's seat and show off his stuff. He places second, and quickly builds up a reputation, allowing him to get Cal a gig. The two are undefeatable - or should I say Ricky is, because he won't ever let Cal beat him. After years of wins, Ricky has become totally arrogant about his talents, but he is still very stupid. In his own mind, he is completely unbeatable. Cue the appearance of Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen) a crazy French driver, who kicks Ricky's butt and forces him into a shameful (and very funny) early retirement involving invisible fire. Cal takes the opportunity to steal his beautiful wife and move into his mansion (as best friends do), and Ricky loses everything. This, of course, sets the stage for Ricky to come back and show everyone... and he sorta does.. in a whacky roundabout kinda way.

Honestly, I was surprised by this movie. Will Ferrell is hilarious. This MOVIE is hilarious. It does plenty of things right. For example, Ferrell (who co-wrote) really understands how to build a joke. Rather than deliver a punchline and then repeat it throughout the movie, Ferrell understands that maximum laughs can be made by one-upping the punchline every time. He starts off slow and saves the best till last rather than going for broke then beating a dead horse. SOOOO many modern-day comedies seem completely unable to do this. Take the much-repeated and stupid "Gaylord Focker" jokes in Meet the Fockers. You hear it once, then you hear the exact same joke again fifty times. The comedy in Talladega Nights is a several cuts above what I had been expecting. As well as this, Ferrell gives us a character that is arrogant, yet endearingly stupid and childlike. He is stupid to the point of being vulnerable, and we grow to love this, which definitely helps. A line delivered by a defined character is instantly funnier than one delivered by a nobody (in the same way that when I retell a joke from Eddie Murphy: Delirious, no-one laughs).

One thing I really liked about this film was the way that the characters poked fun at stupid catch-phrases. There are plenty of lame comedies where characters repeat stupid catch-phrases which the audience are meant to find funny or cool. In Talladega Nights, catch-phrases are used, but are lambasted as stupid and pointless. Ricky and Cal are constantly parrotting "SHAKE AND BAKE", but we don't know why or what it is about it that appeals to them. It seems to have some sort of magical effect on them though, and it propels them to victory every time. I love that Ferrell did this - it is a subtle poke at other comedies. My favourite Shake-n-Bake moment is when Cal delivers said line as a taunt to Jean Girard, and Ricky is so blown away by it that he asks Jean Girard "Did that just blow your mind? THAT JUST HAPPENED!!!". It shows up the complete stupidity of the both the catch-phrase and the character. I love it.

So as I said, this was very surprising. There are periods where the movie falls a little flat, so it's not perfect, but it's a still an impressive comedy and one that I could definitely watch again and enjoy. I don't know what the press reviews of this film were like, but I guess I'll be giving anything Will Ferrell has been involved in a closer look.

andy-j gives this movie 8 out of 10.
Review created on Wed 14 Mar 2007

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Reader comments

  1. Will Ferrell is hilarious.
    You should definitely check out Anchorman and Elf.

    I thought Sacha Baron Cohen was awesome too. I was really intrigued to see him in a more scripted role and he didn't disappoint. In fact he more than held his own. And who wouldn't want to retire and invent a currency for Cats and Dogs to use?

    Rating given: 8

    A comment from m1k3y ( on Wed 14 Mar 2007 23:04 #

Those who have commented give this movie: 8.00 (1 rating)

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